Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films / Machete Maidens Unleashed!
Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
Released on: April 5th, 2017.
Director: Mark Hartley
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Two features from documentary filmmaker Mark Hartley exploring some serious treasure troves of exploitation movie history!
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films:
Mark Hartley’s 2014 documentary sheds some welcome light on the combined cinematic output of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, two cousins from Israel with a love for film that they turned into a moviemaking machine. In the eighties in particular, Cannon Films were everywhere – you couldn’t walk two feet without running into a ninja movie, a Charles Bronson film, a Michael Dudikoff flick or a Chuck Norris picture that they had a hand in bringing to the big screen.
But of course, there was more to their story than just the action movies that they are so fondly remembered for. Golan and Globus often worked fast and cheap, often times selling a concept or a poster before even having a proper script of a contracted star in place. They earned a reputation for putting commerce before art but regardless of the quality of their output, they had a massive run. However, because they were often financing the next picture before their current project was finished, a couple of high profile flops brought the house crumbling down.
Hartley’s documentary does a great job of explaining all of this by interviewing a whole lot of people who lived through it. Of course, plenty of clips from the various Cannon Films productions are used throughout, as are some interesting archival interview bits with the two men themselves. The bulk of the documentary is made up of interviews with stars, directors and behind the scenes types, each of whom has a story or two to tell. Sam Firstenberg, always amiable, shows up here as does Michael Dudikoff. Luigi Cozzi pops up to talk about working with Cannon, and Dolph Lundgren is on hand to discuss his involvement in the notoriously terrible Masters Of The Universe film that Cannon unleashed on the masses. Boaz Davidson, William Stout, Sybil Danning, Martine Beswick, Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Forster, Lucinda Dickey (swoon!), Tobe Hooper, Greydon Clark, Just Jaeckin, Diane Franklin, Alex Winter, Franco Nero, Elliott Gould, Bo Derek, Franco Zeffirelli, Molly Ringwald, Barbet Schroeder, Cassandra Peterson, Edward Pressman, Albert Pyun - the list goes on and on and that doesn’t even include those who appear via archival clips.
The feature is not only quite comprehensive but it’s also very well put together. The editing is tight and while it takes the subject seriously enough, it’s not so highbrow that the movie doesn’t showcase the humor in some of the situations surrounding Cannon’s history. It also gives us a feel for which of the cousins was the business guy and which was the idea guy. It’s interesting to see how they toiled in exploitation pictures but also cranked out the occasional arthouse picture or serious dramatic work. It’s fascinating stuff and a must see picture for anyone with even a passing interest in the history of independent cinema.
Machete Maidens Unleashed!:
Up next is Hartley’s 2010 feature, Machete Maidens Unleashed!, a look at the boom years of Filipino exploitation cinema. This feature takes a fairly chronological approach to its subject, starting out by explaining how and why American filmmakers started coming to the Philippines to shoot low budget pictures. The cost of labor was cheap, the locations were exotic and interchangeable and the political climate was friendly enough to make it all come together.
As such, soon enough horror pictures like The Mad Doctor Of Blood Island and the other Blood Island films were using American leads and a host of Filipino extras and supporting players. When this proved to be a profitable excursion, the floodgates opened and before you know it, Roger Corman moved in with his crew and, while he didn’t completely take over per se, he made a massive amount of pictures over there. Like all good things, however, it had to come to an end. Things started to get increasingly dangerous, the different formulas started to run their course and the industry started to flat-line. Domestic product like the Weng Weng movies were still viable but the golden days were over – at least for the time being.
Like Electric Boogaloo, this piece is a fascinating mix of newly created interviews and archival clips and photographs. Again, Hartley’s film has a sense of humor to it but still manages to treat its subject with respect. We’re not making fun of these pictures, but we are aware of how absurd some of them were and how equally absurd their backstories are. The movie has a nice flow to it, it’s fast paced but it still manages to prove fairly comprehensive – you can learn a lot from this one.
Again, however, the interviews are really the highlights. Roger Corman is all over the place, and he’s got plenty of input on what was great and maybe not so great about some of the Filipino directors he hired to work for him. Eddie Romero, also interviewed, gets lots of praise while Cirio H. Santiagio… not so much. From Corman’s production crew at the time we also hear from John Landis, Allan Arkush, Joe Dante and Dick Miller – these guys are born storytellers all of them and they lay it all on the line with smile on their collective face. Directors Jack Hill, Brian Trenchard-Smith and Steve Carver show up with some fun stories too. We also hear from a lot of the actors and actresses who went over there to work on a picture or two – Judy Brown, Colleen Camp, Marlene Clark, Marissa Delgado, R. Lee Ermey, Sid Haig, Jayne Kennedy, Margaret Markov, Paul Koslo, Patrick Wayne and Christopher Mitchum (who is pretty hysterical here in his recollections) are only a few of the interviewees that pop up in the picture. Mondo Macabro’s Pete Tombs also shows up to give some historical context to all of this low budget insanity.
It really was a different time and a different place – where boobs and blood mattered more than production values or story and where stuntmen were clearly expendable. This is every bit as good as the first feature, making this one Hell of a double feature!
Umbrella presents both features on a 50GB Blu-ray disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Both features make a lot of use of various archival clips and photographs, some of which are a bit worse for wear. The newly shot footage is crisp, clean and colorful in the way that footage shot on high definition video should be. Not problems here. You can’t make the various sources that the clips were culled from look better than they are and the actual documentary footage is just fine.
Electric Boogaloo gets an English language DTS-HD 5.1 track. Machete Maidens, a slightly older feature, gets the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. Obviously the lossless track has stronger depth to it and it does use the surrounds to spread out the effects and score quite nicely, but the 2.0 mix gets the job done without any issues. Both features are primarily made up of interview clips and older film clips so they aren’t really home theater demo material in the first place – but they sound just fine.
Extras are surprisingly extensive and specific to each of the two features. For Electric Boogaloo we start off with a five minute press interview with director Mark Hartley where he talks about what inspired him to make the picture. Up next, there’s a Variety Studio interview that runs five minutes and sees Hartley alongside Brett Ratner, who served as co-producer, discussing their affections for Cannon and their thoughts on the project. Six minutes of footage shot at the feature’s Toronto International Film Festival debut is also found on the disc, as is a separate four minute interview with Frank Yablans.
Umbrella has also rescued a serious wealth of footage from the cutting room floor for this release. Fans of Michael Dudikoff will be excited to find the full thirteen minute version of his interview included here, as well as a massive selection of other deleted and extended scenes from the movie. There’s a lot of interesting stuff here, it’s thirty-seven minutes well spent.
Having said all of that, the best of the extras is the Cannon Films trailer reel that Umbrella has assembled. There’s a load of great stuff here – trailers are included for Inga, Innocence Lost, Joe, Maid In Sweden, Blood On Satan’s Claw, Hot T-Shirts, The Apple, Schizoid, The Happy Hooker Goes To Hollywood, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Body And Soul, Enter The Ninja, That Championship Season, The Last American Virgin, Death Wish II, The Wicked Lady, Revenge Of The Ninja, Hercules, 10 To Midnight, Treasure Of The Four Crowns, Breakin’, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, Making The Grade, The Ambassaor, The Naked Face, Sword Of The Valiant, Bolero, Maria’s Lovers, Missing In Action, Missing In Action II, Mata Hari, The Adventures Of Hercules, Lifeforce, King Solomon’s Mines, Death Wish 3, American Warrior (better known as American Ninja), Invasion USA, Runaway Train, Firewalker, Alan Quartermain And The Lost City Of Gold, Invaders From Mars, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Delta Force, 52 Pickup, Cobra, American Ninja 2, Assassin, Street Smart, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, Masters Of The Universe, Over The Top, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Alien From LA, Messenger Of Death, Salsa, American Ninja 3, Sinbad Of The Seven Seas, Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, Cyborg and last but most certainly not least, Lambada (the forbidden dance!). A lot of this material was included on Umbrella’s Blu-ray release of Drive-In Delirium: Maximum ‘80’s Overdrive but it’s appropriate to include it here as well.
Aside from that, there’s also a trailer for Electric Boogaloo included here, as well as a pair of pretty extensive still gallery.
Not to be outdone, however, there’s a pretty huge selection of supplements for Machete Maidens Unleashed! included here as well starting with an audio commentary featuring Hartley, sound recordist Jock Healy, assistant cameraman Angelo Sartore and production manager Melissa Hines. This is a pretty interesting track that covers how this project came to be, what was involved in getting both the American participants we see in the movie and the Filipino interviewees featured in the picture involved and quite a bit more.
But wait, there’s more! A half hour long audio interview that Hartley did with Rue Morgue a few years ago is included here. It covers a lot of the same ground as the commentary track but it’s interesting enough that diehards will want to check it out. Also on hand is a quick three minute interview with Hartley shot at a Fantastic Fest screening of the feature accompanied by a thirteen minute long Q&A session from that same screening featuring with Roger Corman, his wife Julie Corman, Hartley and Tim League. For even more footage from that screening we get a four and a half minute clip of Fantastic Fest Red Carpet footage.
And as it was with Electric Boogaloo, so too is it with Machete Maidens Unleashed! – there’s almost ninety minutes of trimmed interview clips included here that for whatever reason (probably timing) weren’t used in the feature version of the movie.
And once again, an excellent trailer reel showcasing a wide variety of films related to the feature is included, so be on the lookout for spots for Raiders Of Leyte Gulf, Terror Is A Man, Mad Doctor Of Blood Island, Beast Of Blood, Beast Of The Yellow Night, The Big Dollhouse, Women In Cages, The Big Bird Cage, Night Of The Cobra Woman, The Hot Box, Black Mama White Mama, The Woman Hunt, The Twilight People, Beyond Atlantis, Savage Sisters, Savage, TNT Jackson, Fly Me, Cover Girl Models, Ebony Ivory And Jade, Hollywood Boulevard, Naked Fist, They Call Him Chop Suey, Master Samurai, Devil’s Three, The One Armed Executioner, The Losers, For Y’ur Height Only and the mighty Up From The Depths.
Rounding out the Machete Maidens Unleashed! extras are a trailer for the feature, an eighty second ‘Oath of Green Blood’ promo for Mad Doctor Of Blood Island, three minutes of test footage for Up From The Depths and a still gallery.
Menus and chapter stops are included for both features and Umbrella has provided some nice reversible cover art to be included with this release.
The Final Word:
Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films / Machete Maidens Unleashed! offers up two excellent feature length documentaries covering two very different aspects of cult film history in very nice presentations and loaded with fantastic supplemental material. Consider this one essential.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
electric boogaloo: the wild,
machete maidens unleashed!,
untold story of cannon films
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